Not all SEO audit reports are created equal, so how do you know which ones are worth your time and money?
SEO pro Gert Mellak shares his team's audit process and the critical elements a good report must have.
And one of the ones that I really wanted to ask on behalf of my audience, Gert, what makes a good SEO audit? And I’ll give you some context. There’s quite a lot of companies out there from popular bloggers who have opt-ins on their site that run you through some simple little tool and give you an SEO audit through to really expensive higher-level agency firms. But I’ve heard mixed reviews from people in terms of the result they got back.
I know this is of particular interest to my audience because when I used to run an SEO business, we used to do an audit and the audit would actually take us quite a few hours. And we had to use a lot of different tools. And we put a lot of personal attention into it. So I think we set the bar pretty high back then. But I’d love to know what you think, as an SEO professional, a good audit should have as a minimum. And I’m also of course, curious to know what kind of audits you’re providing over at SEOLeverage.com?
Gert: That’s an excellent question. And this is a point that’s very often brought up when I talk to clients or site owners really, because they probably already received three or four audits before they talk to me. Very often they have been in SEO for a while, I have been doing SEO. The thing is that most audits, and sometimes when they get some of those, and they just forward them to me and say, take a look and let me know how your audit is different, for example. And what we see really is, first of all, most of them are automated, which really, really shocks me because there’s just no way you can assess a site with an automated audit. It’s like filling in a questionnaire instead of going to the doctor, right? It’s really, really similar.
There’s just no way everything can be assessed without someone with enough experience assessing your site in your industry in a certain moment in time. Five years ago, two years ago, half a year ago is not the same thing as now. We want to have someone who can assess this, and the tools probably have been created five years ago. And they’re still doing the same thing, just as an example here. Then an e-commerce site needs to be assessed completely differently than a blog or a coaching site, across different industries to have different goals. If your goal is leads or your goals is sales, it’s a completely different thing. Some sites have the goal of affiliate clicks so we want to check out what are the calls-to-action really to send people to the affiliate. So definitely, it needs to be a manual audit and it needs to be depending on your industry and on your situation and at the certain moment in time we are in. I just had an audit on this site that lost 80% of traffic with a ranking Google update. The assessment is very different from a site that’s doing pretty well and just wants to grow. So it’s completely different.
The actual list that should come out, by the way, a good audit should have a prioritized list of action steps. It should not be only a list of “do this, do this, do this”. There are priorities based on impact. And this is where we essentially designed our audit and we’re still tweaking it after years of using it. We’re still tweaking the template and adding new things. I just discovered a new way of analyzing the Google Knowledge Graph and we’re going to put this in as well, because it’s really interesting.
A good audit is first of all, manual. A good audit is going to take a few days, it’s not something you can get immediately. And in our case, for example, it takes four people a week in order to do an audit. So four people are going to deal with this website. And we add a lot of things that are not only assessing the current site, but are only going to set the ground stone for future work. So this would be for example, a complete content audit where it’s like, how is the content performing? If there is no content audit in your site audit, you’re missing out on a very actionable step of pruning existing content, repurposing old content, recycling old content, bringing it back. This is a very quick win that people completely underestimate. And no single audit I’ve seen so far does have a content audit included. You can purchase it as an extra. But it’s not included, but we always do this.
In our case, our audit, and I think we’re getting very good results just with the audit already, it’s divided up in four phases. So Phase One is really a document about the site’s current status. What’s the search performance in general? What’s the geographic targeting? What is the usability? There should be a usability study, there should be someone checking out your website on a mobile phone and giving you some hints of what could be potential user-experience blocks and obstacles and stuff like that.
We have Phase Two which is completely focusing on content from a very extensive keyword research in your niche so you know what you can be writing about, where you’re already ranking, which keywords you’re missing out, to gap analysis where you see where you’re getting traffic or whether your competitors are getting traffic where you don’t even rank. So you can build up this content and bridge essentially this gap. To the content audit where you really know what is search performance of all my URLs over the last six months. And you’re going to discover, especially on large sites, that there are a few 100 URLs that don’t even come up in search, let alone that if then somebody clicks on them or not. But search results not coming up in SEO is really a good sign that you need to revise, if you can get rid of those and stop wasting some crawl budget or processing time from Google, really. And have Google focus on the articles you really want and can rank and people are really interested in.
Sometimes this is also a sign where we need to freshen up the content we had a few years back, and just make sure that it is based on today’s standards when it comes to the level of engagement, the level of structure and interlinking and surrounding content as well.
Then we have Phase Three is really technical. So this is we’re analyzing tools, reports, and say okay, what is missing? Just to really to get the technical basics right. This is probably the only thing where an automated audit can probably get it 50% right at least. Checking the basics, do you have a title tag? Do you have any duplications on your websites? The really basic things.
And then Phase Four is really a link audit, where we audit the entire link profile with the best industry-leading tool here. And then give you an idea about what is the penalization risk. Negative SEO is a thing that exists. And this means that sometimes competitors send negative links to a site or people have engaged in, like, shady practices in the past that even maybe worked a few years back but don’t work anymore. But they still have all those negative links pointing to the site. And there might be a necessity of disavowing those links, meaning telling Google to really ignore those links when it comes to determining your ranking. So they don’t harm you and you’re not getting haunted from something from the past here. You want to have a very good assessment.
So the audit really comprises of a status report, an idea of content, outlining what should be written in what structure on your website. We check usability, we check the technical basis. And we also shed a light on the backlinks here. And I think this is really what it takes and it takes multiple people. It’s not something an individual person should be doing, in my opinion. Because everybody with SEO experience is going to have a slightly different approach and coming up with additional ideas. And we handle audits really, first of all, we create them across the team with multiple people in the first place.
But then we hand them over to additional steps for review, for additional ideas, for maybe different points of view, etc. Until we come out with an audit we’re really happy with where we say, okay, this is an actionable audit. And then we create an action items list. So our clients get a list with priorities where it says urgent. Sometimes we discover things that should really be fixed as soon as possible which we even pointed out before we hand out the audit, if it’s really urgent. And then we have high, medium, low priority. And this is how people should focus on working on those audits, on those things. Because if not, everything has the same impact on SEO, on your site, on your performance. But we also have seen that if people focus on the right things and implement quickly afterward, they can get 30%, 50% or more performance boost, depending on what state the site was afterward, just by fixing things that come out of the audit. And then they already have a roadmap to follow after fixing this and creating this base foundation to build up upon.
James: Yeah, that’s a massive gain. This sounds like a paid audit.
Gert: It is definitely a paid audit.
James: You want it to be. The manpower alone, four people for a week. How much does an audit like this cost?
Gert: You can probably expect to pay anywhere between $1500 to $2000 for an audit like this. It’s really for four people working a lot of hours with high-paid tools. In our agency, I think we pay $3,000 every month just for the tools we use in order to create this level of analysis and this level of audits for our clients here.
James: Basically, you’re going to get a complete map of what you’ve got, and all of the steps to implement whether you do that yourself or with some other contractor or with you guys, then you know what to do. It’s like hiring an architect to survey your land and come up with the building plans to make your most magnificent building. And then you can choose who’s going to build it.
I love it. Gert, thank you so much for sharing that. Gert Mellak there from SEOLeverage.com. If you’ve got the kind of website where you feel like getting better SEO or 30% or a 50% improvement in your search engine organic traffic could be useful for you then I would recommend you get the audit. Certainly, we’ve been using Gert for SuperFastBusiness.com and seeing tremendous results from it.
Gert: Thank you very much, James. Good to be here.
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